Sunday, 22 January 2017


We arrived in Genoa by train from Monterosso. From Genoa we planned to fly to Catania but decided to spend a few days here. I had been given two conflicting appraisals of the place. One that as a city it was worth a few days stay and the other there is nothing there it’s just a port city. However I was sure we could find some interesting places to visit and if not, we could easily do a day trip to Portofino which is not that far away.
Castello D'Albertis

Our hotel MSN Galles was close to the station though not in the most salubrious area. It was lunchtime when we arrived and after settling into our room we set off to the Maritime Museum close to our accommodation. We had lunch there then then visited the museum proper. We enjoyed many of the exhibits about Genoa’s maritime history but the two we enjoyed the most were the Emigration history display and the one on literary illusions around sea monsters and exotic sea creatures.

As the weather was very hot we returned to the hotel for a siesta. Once refreshed we went to the historic centre wandered around and found a great bar which had the best apertivo, that was hearty enough to serve as our dinner.

On the hill overlooking the city was an enticing castle. We arrived at the gates before opening so had a coffee at the café opposite. Very pleasant. Castello D’Albertis was fascinating. It was built in the neo-Gothic style from 1886-1892 for the sea captain Luigi Maria d’Albertis and houses his collection of ethnographic and archeological findings from his various voyages around the world. The collection also includes models of ships and yachts, nautical equipment, photographs and his library.

From there we went to the Royal Palace, building began in 1618 for the Balbi family, after changing hands it was eventually sold to the Royal House of Savoy in 1828. In 1919 the building was acquired by the government. It is a magnificent building which befits a royal palace with many superb frescoes in every room.
Royal Palace

We fitted in a couple of churches St. Annunziata del Vastato and the Jesuit church as well as an exhibition of the artist Mucha. A very full day.

On our last day here we visited the Risorgimento Museum, it was down a side street and could be easily missed. The only disappointment was the limited English translations on many of the displays.

Also worth visiting Nicoli Grimaldi and Tursi Palaces as well the Musei di Strada Nuovo with each room decorated in a different style and beautiful artworks on display. Finally we visited the St. Lorenzo cathedral.

Genoa a birds' eye view

The next morning we were flying to Catania. In two and a half days there was more than enough of interest in Genoa to make it a worthwhile place to visit.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Cinque Terre 2016

We caught the 8.10 am train from Milan to Cinque Terre by the time we arrived at Monterosso it was close to lunch time. Our accommodation wasn’t far from the station but up an extremely steep hill. We dropped our big bags there and quickly packed our daypacks with the necessities for two nights. By the time we had completed this a late lunch beckoned.
We had our lunch, bought some water and started out on the 3.9 kms. walk to Vernazza which is supposed to take 1.5 hours. The day was very hot and this was the most strenuous part of the walk. It felt as though we walked up a million steps, the sweat pouring off me and close to sunstroke we made to Vernazza after about 3 hours.
That was it as far I was concerned, ferry it to Riomaggiore where we were going to stay the night. The sight of the villages perched on the steep hills hugging the coastline is a beautiful spectacle. We enjoyed our evening in the town and wandered around it the next morning before we continued to Porto Venere by ferry.
Porto Venere is a delightful town and our accommodation in the old town was great. We had a wonderful view of the coast from our window.  We then explore to town. There is a ‘Poet’s Grotto’ from which the poet
Lord Byron had supposedly swam to the next town. It was enjoyable wandering in and out the intriguing laneways and there was also an interesting church to visit.
The following morning we returned to Monterosso on our arrival we explored the town, had lunch before returning to our accommodation. Up very steep steps and the hill we arrived to be about cancellations through which amounted to our room now being unavailable. The proprietor arranged another accommodation for us at the same price, which turned out to be a better option anyway.
Apart from the less than auspicious beginning we loved the Cinque Terre, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. As it was a busy time I needed to pre-book accommodation. What I should have done was have the first night in Monterosso then start out early the following morning before it became too hot, then I think we could have made it to the towns that were still accessible by foot then a ferry to Riomaggiore in a day stay the night there. The next take the ferry to Porto Venere which is just outside Cinque Terre area but definitely worth visiting.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Italy- Milan

We arrived at our hotel early in the morning after a long tiring journey. We stayed at Hotel Terminal chosen for its location near the main railway station a monument to fascist architecture. Breakfast wasn’t provided but we found a little café a few doors away where we could buy a typical Italian breakfast at a very reasonable price.

As our room wasn’t ready we left our bags at the hotel and explore the city. My mobile had frozen I had tried to fix but nothing seemed to work and I panicked as I might need it for hotel confirmations etc. I bought an Italian brand smartphone placed my SIM card in and all was OK, except it was not an easy phone to use.

After lunch we then went to the Duomo, the third largest cathedral in the world and took three centuries to complete. The interior is impressive, and has an altar made entirely from silver but compared to the gold altar in the Santiago de Compostela in Spain it was ‘plain.’

We then climbed the stairs to the terraces, the view from the roof is magnificent, being up high close to the flying buttresses and columns with their intricate carvings and statuary is awesome.
On the terrace of the Cathedral

We walked around the main square and not surprisingly security was everywhere. We visited the amazing Victor Emmanuel Galleria with its high-end boutiques and restaurants.

We then returned to our hotel to have a rest and shower. We then found a restaurant close to the hotel for dinner.

Castello Sforsco
The next day we were refreshed and ready to explore more. We were unable to find the market we were looking for and ended up close to the Castello Sforzesco one of Europe’s most elegant Renaissance residences was built by Viscontis in 1368 then later rebuilt by Francesco Sforza it is now an extensive museum and has an amazing collection of instruments. It is astonishing the wide variety of stringed instruments that have been developed over the centuries from a wide range of places. There many artistic exhibits also. The huge building backs onto a beautiful park.

We headed back to the centre to see if we could buy opera tickets for La Scala for this night as Mozart’s Magic Flute was being performed. I suppose it was not surprising that all the reasonable priced tickets were sold out. Just as we left the ticket office a guy offered us tickets in the gallery for €60 each, a good markup for him considering the price on the tickets. We paid the ‘scalper’ as they were considerably cheaper than any of the ones available over the counter. I only hoped they were legitimate.

In the afternoon we went to the Pinecotteca Brera which has one of Italy’s most important art collections. It has 38 rooms with works arranged in chronological order. Though not massive like some of the major galleries in the world. A smaller gallery is less overwhelming and you have more time to appreciate the works of art.

We returned to our hotel before going to the opera, a few hours later, refreshed we returned to La Scala and had a pre-theatre snack at the restaurant next door.

I was relieved when we were ushered to our seats, our tickets proved valid. We enjoyed the performance but one aspect of the production wouldn’t have passed muster in Australia, England or U.S.  The protégés of the ‘Queen of the Night’ were ‘blacked up’ as primitive African natives. Not a good look.

We went to the Naviglio district with canals designed by Leonardo Da Vinci still I use. It is a very pleasant are with an array of restaurants and shops. On the day we visit there was a ‘Trash & Treasure’ market in full swing.
The Grand Canal Milan

We had an enjoyable lunch then went on the grand-canal boat ride very relaxing. We then popped into the Basilica di Sant’ Eustorgio which was built in1462. On the left wall can be seen material about the miracle of the healed foot!

Hazy Lake Como
We had a day trip to Lake Como, unfortunately George Clooney wasn’t there to entertain us. We had an enjoyable day anyway. A boat trip around the lake, then a ride on the funicular for a panoramic view of the area. A great lunch, then back to Milan. To get ready to leave early morning for our trip to Monterosso.